Harvard researcher Piotr Naskrecki hopes his new book, “The Smaller Majority” (Harvard University Press, 2005), will win over some new advocates for the tiny creatures he has spent his life studying. It is a gorgeous book, featuring hundreds of photographs from Naskrecki’s expeditions in Latin America, Africa, Australia, and the South Pacific.
Naskrecki has trained his macro lens on some of the rarest and most unusual living creatures on the planet. Some of them are still unclassified and, until now, unphotographed. And while some of the reproductions may show a tiny ant or spider enlarged to many times its original dimensions, Naskrecki says that his real aim is not to confer the gift of size on his tiny subjects.
“In my photography, I’m not trying to make them bigger. I’m trying to make myself smaller. I never pick up an insect and raise it up where I can see it more easily. Instead, I’ll get down on the ground and crawl around, trying to photograph it in its own setting.”
But while “The Smaller Majority” is a spectacular publishing event, Naskrecki is well aware that it will take more than a book to save the creatures represented in its pages. Currently, it is estimated that 1,000 species are going extinct each year, many of them still undiscovered. The rate of extinction seems to be in inverse proportion to the growth of Earth’s human population. By the year 2025, it is estimated that the world’s population will reach 12 billion, or double its present size. By that time, we might have wiped out 90 percent of the world’s nonhuman species, Naskrecki says.
“It’s very difficult to find a solution. We’ve got to slow down the growth rate of the population. That’s the only thing that will save the planet.”